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MEN WANTED: in Pro-life Ministry

(...but at first I wondered, "What was I thinking?")

by Scott Manganella

Those “what was I thinking” moments haunt every one of us.  From an unaffordable purchase to a personal relationship, we often find those words running through our minds. 

For me it was in the early 80’s.  I had been a successful pastor for a few years, fresh out of college and wanting to change the world.  In the course of that pastorate, God began to work on my heart regarding the pro-life movement.   It seemed as if He was telling me to get involved.  I told him I already was and informed God that I was actively involved in writing letters to elected officials, marching in D.C., and lobbying my congressmen. 

But God kept saying, “That’s good, but what are you going to DO?”  Keith’s Green’s song, The Sheep and the Goats, with the tag line, “the only difference between the sheep and the goats is what they did and did not DO,” kept haunting me.  A phrase by another preacher, “It is not enough to curse the darkness; you must light a light,” chased me day and night.

So I Got My Church Involved

Finally, I approached my congregation and informed them I could no longer preach against abortion, if we were not going to do something to help young women facing crisis pregnancies.   We did not know exactly what to do, but we knew we had to do something.  I met with a few women in church and we decided we would offer a 24-hour hotline, provide free pregnancy testing, and assist with meeting physical needs like clothing and baby furniture. 

At that time, very few Crisis Pregnancy Ministries had started.  After a few months, I decided it might be a good idea to get some training, so I found a conference for Crisis Pregnancy Centers that were just beginning.  I arrived early and anxiously sat in the front row. After a while, I turned around and realized that except for the presenter, I was the only man in the room.  I shuddered, “What was I thinking?” 

I Was a Man in a Women’s Ministry!  

In the early days, I was reminded often by leaders in the pro-life movement as a man, I should not be heading up a Crisis Pregnancy Center.  But, I kept getting calls from all over Pennsylvania requesting help in setting up centers.   As I traveled and got more involved, God moved my heart from the pastoral ministry to the pro-life ministry. 

In 1986, I left my beautiful country church and went full-time with a ministry called “Precious Life”, which I had helped birth a year earlier in the town of Altoona, PA.  With a miniscule budget and a lot of dreams we launched out.  Within two years, we had opened a maternity home and my wife and I moved in with our two kids.  Within two weeks of opening, we were full – six girls!  Two weeks later we had six girls and a baby!  What was I thinking?!?

PRECIOUS LIFE has grown to three county-wide offices, a maternity home, an apartment building offering long-term housing, a physical needs center, and a sister ministry in Oradea, Romania.  Over the years, acceptance of a man involved in this “women’s ministry” has increased dramatically.   I am no longer ridiculed for being out of place.  Now, it’s OK! 

While the negatives of a man doing this type of work are obvious, and in certain cases (i.e. rape and physical abuse cases) I often refer the young lady to a woman or a professional psychologist, there are, however, definite benefits to a man being involved in crisis pregnancy work. 

Benefits of a Man being in Crisis Pregnancy Work 

First, as a former pastor, I can call on pastors and invite them to lunch or dinner in order to discuss the ministry.  This can sometimes be uncomfortable for a pastor to do with a woman, unless someone accompanies them.  I can challenge them on their involvement on a personal level because I know their job description, the pressures they face, and the demands of their ministry.  I can also help fill their pulpit when they are gone, preach the pro-life message when they want it, and be available to them as a confidant when needed.

Secondly, I have found that the young women I counsel in my office really do not care who is in the other chair; they just want their pregnancy test done.  They want their questions answered and they want to find out where they go from here.   If they need help telling their parents, they feel very comfortable with “this guy” going to tell their parents about their daughter’s pregnancy.  I have sat across the kitchen table and had to tell a dad that his sweet princess was pregnant.  Not a fun day at the office, but I have always had a positive response from parents when I have had to do this.

As I travel to schools promoting abstinence, I get a very positive response from both the boys and the girls. They really don’t care about your gender, when they see that you really care about them.   Of course, I use female volunteers to conduct some of the more personal sessions, where it is more appropriate for a woman to share “woman to woman”.   But the presence of a man presenting positive messages about sexual conduct, and misconduct, has proven to be extremely powerful.

Finally, I am able to minister to the young men who come in with their girlfriends.  Though it is rare, it is always a blessing to talk man to man with young men about their responsibilities.  Positive male role models are becoming much too rare.  Often, I am the first man they have encountered who discusses sex in a positive, tactful way.

I didn’t think in terms of positives and negatives when I first began this odyssey; I was just a country preacher responding to God’s leading.  “What was I thinking” when I first started?  To be honest, I thought I’d do this for a short while and then return to pastoral ministry.  But God had different plans.  He said, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways, my ways…“(Is. 55:8).   

After 23 years, I am slowly learning this truth.  Sometimes it is not good to over-think, but instead, to act on what God is telling us to do.  This does not negate our responsibility to plan, for we must still “count the cost”.  Jesus didn’t say, “If you love me think about my commandments”.  Instead, He said, “If you love me keep (do) my commandments” (John 14:15).  

So here is this “guy” plugging away in a ministry he is not supposed to be in.  A guy, who if truth be told, is not crazy about working with teens and is scared of tiny babies because they are so fragile.  But after over twenty years, it seems as if this is the place that God wants me to be.

 If God calls you to a place that you are not quite sure of, rest assured, He “knows the plans He has for you".  (Jer.  29:11)   It may surprise you where He leads you, but you can rest on the promise of His goodness.   And don’t forget to smile while He is working. He does have a sense of humor.  You just might find yourself asking, “What was I thinking?!”

“Scott Manganella is the founder/director of PRECIOUS LIFE in Altoona, Pennsylvania.  He has been involved in crisis pregnancy work for twenty-five years.” (Author: Scott Manganella)

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